GOP Eager To Exploit Dem Court-Packing Fight

Republicans are seizing on the Democratic fight over expanding the Supreme Court as they look for leverage in the 2020 White House fight.

The intra-party debate is seen by Republicans as a political gift that could pay dividends after several presidential candidates signaled they are open to adding justices to the bench or imposing term limits.

GOP strategists and conservative activists say the progressive push to expand the Supreme Court fits nicely into the broader Republican narrative about Democrats swinging too far to the left. And it’s an issue they view as a political boon.

Long considered a fringe idea, reforming the nation’s highest court has vaulted into the spotlight with the backing of progressive outside groups and high-profile leaders like former Attorney General Eric Holder, who served during the Obama administration.

GOP lawmakers are quickly moving to weaponize the fight by introducing legislation that would force Democrats to go on the record on a constitutional amendment to keep the number of Supreme Court justices at nine.

An amendment is likely to go nowhere in the Democrat-controlled House. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hasn't weighed in on the current Supreme Court fight, or the prospect that he would bring legislation on the issue up for a vote. He previously dismissed talk of expanding the courts as Democrats “scrounging through the ash-heap of American history” for their ideas.

“McConnell is very savvy about these sorts of things and he knows … that he wants to have all this stuff documented before Democrats have a nominee,” said Ford O'Connell, a GOP strategist.

O'Connell added that forcing Democratic senators to vote on a constitutional amendment, even though it has little chance of being enacted, would allow Republicans to help define the Democratic Party before they are able to unite behind a 2020 strategy.

“A lot of this stuff that is being thrown around the Democratic primary, the Republicans want to capture now regardless of who the nominee is because the nominee will then try to pivot, duck, dodge and dive this stuff,” he said. “If Trump and the Republicans can define the Democrats before the Democrats have a nominee that’s how they’re going to win this race.”

Read more from Jordain Carney at The Hill

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Analysis & Political Strategy